The New York Rangers top line of Pavel Buchnevich, Mika Zibanejad, and Rick Nash came through in a big way this evening, and exploited the Buffalo Sabres in a 4-3 victory. Henrik Lundqvist had a relatively high workload tonight as well, turning away 34 of the 37 shots he faced in regulation time.
Unlike the previous game, the Rangers were able to strike first with Rick Nash cashing in on a breakaway and snapping the puck over Robin Lehner. Nash absolutely burned Jake McCabe through the neutral zone to generate the opportunity and made the early chance count. Unfortunately, the Sabres would respond nearing the end of the first period with a power play goal coming from Kyle Okposo.
Henrik Lundqvist came inches away from turning the puck aside, but it just barely slipped between his pads and into the net. The Sabres and Rangers continued to trade goals throughout the second period with J.T. Miller giving the Rangers the lead at the 8:26 mark. It was a perfectly placed shot by Miller, who absolutely smoked a wrist shot past Robin Lehner’s ear from just inside the high slot.
Much like the first period, the Sabres converted again late off of a screen shot from Justin Falk, which left just 20 minutes to decide the game. Rick Nash’s second goal of the night gave the Rangers their third lead of the game, and it came off of a fortunate bounce behind the net. Ryan McDonagh’s point shot rebounded off of the end boards and landed right on Nash’s stick for the easy tap in.
However, the Sabres were absolutely relentless in their attack all throughout the game and found a way to tie up the game for the third time. Rasmus Ristolainen’s third goal of the season appeared to stun the Rangers and made it a 3-3 game heading into the final five minutes of regulation. The Rangers top line wasn’t having any of it though, with Pavel Buchnevich cashing in just a minute later to give the Rangers a 4-3 lead.
Mika Zibanejad deserves all of the credit for creating the goal after having an immense amount of patience and waiting out the defender. Zibanejad also slipped around Lehner, who challenged on the play, and tapped the puck over to Buchnevich wide open in front. All Buchnevich had to do was get a stick on the puck in front, and he did just that, to give the Rangers a 4-3 lead.
The Rangers certainly had their work cut out for them during the closing minutes with Mats Zuccarello taking a hooking minor, and being forced to kill off the penalty. Thankfully the Rangers were defensively sound during the final minute of play and kept a lot of the Sabres’ chances to the outside. Henrik Lundqvst finished the night off with one final glove save to preserve the Rangers one goal lead.
Following tonight’s victory, the Rangers will begin their western road swing on Saturday afternoon against the surging Colorado Avalanche. From there, they will travel to California for meetings with the Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, and San Jose Sharks.